Category - Thunder News

Day 2 and Melo Still Makes His Rebounds Loud and Clear

Nuggets are against guards under 6’10”. Everyone is missing buckets. Carmelo Anthony is still Carmelo Anthony. A look into the first two days of real live basketball.

Basketball is back. I’ve never been more excited for meaningless scrimmage games in my entire life.

Sure, everyone is shooting the ball like they haven’t seen a hoop in, I don’t know, 133 days. But WHO CARES IT IS A BALL CLUNKING THE RIM ON LIVE TELEVISION.

Day One

Day one was pretty meh. The most notable thing was that Miami’s graphics team did a clever move adding crowd noise and visuals to the screens around the court. (It would be a real shame if OKC had some LOUD city footage to put on those very screens. A damn shame)

Zion is out, PG and Kawhi played in limited minutes, and we saw rotations that you would expect for this type of scrimmage environment. All pretty melodramatic.

And oh yeah, this actually happened. Apparently Denver implemented a “you must be this tall to ride” rule during the quarantine.

Image

Can you imagine this lineup against the Rockets? Thoughts and prayers to PJ Tucker.

Cover Your Ears, Kids

We went from Olympic Melo to Hoodie Melo to now Slim Melo.

Regardless of the Melo, we are already getting some loud and proud rebounding, so to speak.

Later in the game, CJ vs. Rim. The rim won. HIT THE SQUAD RACK MY MAN.

 

In Thunder News

Per Joe Mussatto, Billy Donovan says “everyone” will be available. And by everyone, that means *everyone*. It’s been over two years now, will we see the long-awaited return? Tomorrow is the big day. 4PM CST. Book it.

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Thunder seeding schedule released

The NBA released the seeding schedules for all remaining teams heading to Orlando, Florida to finish up the 2019-20 season. Each team will play eight games, with some back-to-backs thrown in there.

Testing is the large question mark for the “bubble” experiment.

The Thunder open their seeding schedule on ESPN and FS Oklahoma against Utah. How it all ended with Utah on March 11, it will restart with the Jazz. Oklahoma City will play them at 2:30 p.m. on one of the three courts the NBA will have running simultaneously.

Oklahoma City will play the Nuggets on Aug. 3 and then the Lakers on the Aug. 5. They finish off the schedule by playing the Heat and the Clippers.

The NBA will run a maximum of seven games per day on three different courts, tipping off between 11 a.m and 8 p.m. CST. Two of those courts will be reserved for national broadcasts, as ESPN and TNT are broadcasting a bunch of games. There will be a handful on NBATV as well.

During the bubble, the NBA has modified some of their bench dress code requirements. They don’t have to wear sports coats on the bench. They can wear a polo, much like teams do in summer league.

Oklahoma City is set to travel to Orlando and begin their quarantine for the bubble on July 8.

Currently, the Thunder have clinched no worse than the seventh seed as they sit fifth in the Western Conference. They are only a game back of Utah, which will see how that goes on Aug. 1, and tied with the Rockets for the fifth spot. Oklahoma City currently owns the tiebreaker with Houston. Since they do not play again as they were scheduled, the Thunder would own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Houston, as Oklahoma City won 2-1 this season.

They are up 1½ games on Dallas in the seventh spot and they’re 2½ back of Denver for the three seed.

Here is the seeding schedule for Oklahoma City:

Aug. 1: Jazz, 2:30 p.m. FSOK/ESPN
Aug. 3: Nuggets, 3 p.m. NBATV
Aug. 5: Lakers, 5:30 p.m. ESPN
Aug. 7: Grizzlies, 3 p.m. NBATV
Aug. 9: Wizards, 11:30 a.m. FSOK
Aug. 10: Suns, 1:30 p.m. FSOK
Aug. 12: Heat, 7 p.m. FSOK
Aug. 14: Clippers, TBD

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Thunder sign Lu Dort to multi-year deal

It was probably one of the biggest no brainers for the Thunder this season but they made it official on Wednesday afternoon.

The Oklahoma City Thunder signed Lu Dort to a multi-year contract, keeping him in Oklahoma City for the foreseeable future.

The terms reported are a four-year deal worth $5.4 million. This season’s pro rated salary is $155,657. Then, he’ll receive $1.78 million for next season, $1.93 million for the 2022-23 season and he will make $2.05 million for the 2023-24 season. Next season’s $1.78 million is fully guaranteed. 2022-23 is guaranteed at $300,000 and the 2023-24 season is guaranteed at $325,000. Meaning, he’ll make the $300,000 no matter what if the Thunder decide to release him prior to the season starting, in which the contract then becomes guaranteed.

Dort, the undrafted rookie out of Arizona State shined during his time with the top club. After signing a two-way deal, allowing him only 45 days to spend with the Thunder and the rest with the Oklahoma City Blue, Dort took full advantage of the situation, finding himself inserted into the starting line up and becoming a fan favorite for his hard work and dedication on the court. At only 6-3 he was unafraid of anyone and gave his best to guard everyone.

One of the most memorable moments for Dort is when he was a large piece in holding James Harden to 1-of-17 from three-point range in his first start. The Thunder won the game and Dort won our hearts.

Dort, 21, averaged 6.3 points per game on 41.4 percent shooting before the shutdown. His career high came against Sacramento when he dropped 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including going 5-of-6 from three-point range.

Dort on a two-way contract would have let him finish out the remaining regular season on the traditional terms. New rules for the Orland bubble situation would have let Dort play in the playoffs. In a traditional season, two-way players are ineligible for the playoffs and become free agents at season’s end. The Thunder decided to bypass any of that and sign him now.

He’s been starting since January 20 and the Thunder have been rolling ever since. Oklahoma is 16-5 when Dort is in the starting lineup and 22-7 when Dort is in the game. He makes the Thunder better and they saw to it he can make them better in the future.

Oklahoma City has found success with multiple Dort lineups. Pairing him with CP3-Gallinari-Adams-SGA, the Thunder’s offense is solid, hitting good efficiency across the board, while the defense slips to 117 DRTG.

When you put him with CP3-Gallinari-Noel-SGA the Thunder have been unstoppable. Their +36.2 net RTG means their offensive rating of 130.6 is 36.2 better than their defensive rating (100 is average).

Where to go from here? That’s the deciding factor and how the Thunder will play in Orlando is a fat question mark.

One question has been answered: Where Lu Dort will spend his next few years playing professional basketball.

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NBA set to make July 31 targeted return date for season

Adam Silver NBA

The NBA’s Board of Governors is set to vote on Thursday to make July 31 their target return date to finish the 2019-20 season.

How they will return remains a mystery.

As of now, the NBA is expected to bring 20-22 teams to Orlando for a single location to finish the season. The bubble would allow the league to control testing, while providing a safe environment for the teams to finish the season.

The NBA’s Board of Governors is expected to vote on Thursday as well to choose the returning format with a handful of options being mentioned.

To return to play, the league needs three-fourths approval and the owners appears to be ready to return to play. With television contracts on the line, teams are eager to complete those so the financial loss does not grow bigger than already anticipated.

There are four ideas currently, with a 22-team idea the front runner. Bringing back all 30 teams currently seems to be dead in the water.

A 22-team format would include teams that are currently within six games of the final playoff spots in each conferences. So, New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio would head to Orlando and Washington in the east.

A majority of the NBA general managers would like the league head straight for the playoffs, meaning those teams who are in their respected eight playoff seeds would advance to the playoffs and the league would accept the financial losses for not completing any of their television contracts, which most require reaching 70 or 72 games.

There is also talk of putting in a World Cup style format, where 20 teams would be split into five different groups, let those teams play in groups and the winner and runner-up advance through to the knock-out round. Those players who play for international teams would be familiar with the format as FIBA and the Olympics have the same format.

Those same GMs expressed approval in the idea of adding two-way players to the playoff rosters. By the current standards, Lu Dort would not be eligible for the playoffs since he is only a two-way player.

By the current suggestions of starting the season on July 31, this gives the league two months to finish the regular season and the playoffs, with the season potentially wrapping up by Oct. 1.

Then, the season would push through and re-start on Christmas.

For now, all of this is expectation and conjecture. Nothing is finalized. What we do know is we want basketball back.

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The league trying to decide on format to bring back basketball

It’s hard to believe the Thunder participated in the game that sent the league into a spiral shutdown. The unfortunate suspension of play has been hard on players and fans. Everyone wants basketball back.

Teams and the league have a financial obligation to get to at least 70 games. Many TV deals are predicated on getting to that marker. If they don’t, it would cost a league millions that will see a drastic reduction in revenue due to the shutdown already.

Currently, the league is considering different options that are not limited to playing out the season or just going straight to the playoffs. If they go straight to the playoffs, that leaves 14 teams at home and some teams may feel jilted. Such as Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento, who were all less than three games back of a Memphis team that was reeling due to injuries.

Then, players that are on expiring deals, who showed out through the first 66 games or so, are at risk of getting out there, laying goose eggs and potentially costing themselves money.

For now, the league worries on what the league will look like if and when it resumes. Damian Lillard already said is not going to play. The Thunder want to play, they were one of the league’s hottest teams before the shutdown. Why does Golden State want to play? Atlanta had the most active in voluntary workouts on Memorial Day, so it’s all across the board in terms of activity.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, there isn’t going to be any resistance from teams if they do bring back all 30 teams but the league is worried about the product. After four months off, you’re going to have some sloppy play and maybe some upsets. The Thunder may not be the same team we saw throughout the season. They may not be the same team we fell in love with.

There’s talk of putting the league back into action mid-July, with the playoffs and NBA Finals ending in September. The draft and free agency would start later in the month when the 2020-21 season starting on Christmas.

Mark Cuban has a wild proposition. All 30 teams to finish out their television obligations. Tehn, the top 10 teams from both conferences would qualify for the playoffs and be re-seeded based on record. There would be two play-in games between the 17 vs. 20 and 18 vs. 19 games. The winners would be the 15th and 16th seeds in the final playoff bracket.

By this proposal, there are 28 of the 30 teams that are within three games of the 10th seed and could make the altered playoff bracket.

There will be no unanimous decision. The players don’t really want to risk injury but they don’t want to risk financial gain. They are already taking a 25 percent pay cut due to the suspension due to COVID-19. There will be teams who don’t want to risk their draft position and some who are trying to better that or their playoff positioning.

We want basketball back. What will that look like when it does return? That remains to be seen.

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Thunder remain only NBA team to not announce something for game day employees

UPDATE: The Thunder have since made a statement how they would take care of their part-time employees and the ASM Global game day staff

Oklahoma City is often on the forefront of taking care of their own. They preach family and loyalty. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thunder have remained silent, despite being at the epicenter of the NBA’s suspending the season.

The Timberwolves announced on Wednesday they were paying workers for games missed, leaving the rest of the fans to wonder what Oklahoma City is doing. At least the Utah Jazz, who are only paying some of the workers (and not with the money Rudy Gobert donated for them). Some will not be paid. However, it’s still more than what the Thunder are currently doing.

There is this increased thought of: “Well, the Thunder are private in their talks.”

The Thunder are only silent when it comes to player movements. When it comes to touting their philanthropic achievements, they are one of the tops in the league. Yet, they remain silent.

It’s not just the silence that is unbearable. It’s the communication between game day staff and the organization that is most pressing. When asked how the organization is going to help as most work two jobs and depend on the money, one unnamed source due to fear of repercussions from the team said: “They said there was nothing they could do.”

There is a misconception about the $100,000 donated by Gobert. It is intended for coronoavirus-related social services, not to pay the arena employees.

From the Thunder drummers to your usher that helps you find your seat and is that first real smiling face you see, many work two jobs. They may be a senior citizen and this is their only means of income. The suspension of the NBA has hurt more than just the fans, it’s hurt the employees. As a different source told me, “I have a full-time job but what about those who bartend or wait tables? That’s gone now, too.”

Currently, arena employees have missed four dates. Thunder game day staff has missed three dates.

“It’s not a lot of money working games,” said one source. “People still count on that to pay their bills and to put food on the table.”

The silence is deafening when talking to those within SMG. The Thunder have not made any real comments to those at SMG about supplementing the pay. There are multiple factors that do go into all of this. You have your payroll tax. Do you pay it twice when the games are eventually made up? Do you just wait to see? For all of his faults, Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban sees no issue with paying people twice.

“There’s issues of payroll taxes. Do you pay the payroll taxes if they don’t work?” Cuban said. “There’s issues of, ‘What happens if the games are actually played in the future? Do we pay them twice?’ I personally don’t care. That’s fine.”

The players have remained quiet, too. Gone are the days where we’ve seen Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook donate their own funds to help those in need. This overturned roster hasn’t stepped up to the plate. Though, only a handful of players have. It should fall on the owners of these multi-million dollar franchises and according to Forbes, are valued at $1.5 billion in Feb. 2020. It should be noted the Thunder lost $23 million last season, as the only team in the NBA to lose money last season.

While the Thunder remain quiet on the front, the concern rages. Why haven’t this organization that preaches family and loyalty stepped up to say something. There are many who feel left out by the team with something they cannot control.

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Westbrook and George have successful surgeries

The Oklahoma City Thunder have announced Russell Westbrook and Paul George have undergone a couple of surgeries each.

Westbrook, the 2016-17 NBA Most Valuable Player underwent successful surgery to repair his fourth MCP ligament on his left hand. He also underwent an arthroscopic knee surgery as he has the last few seasons. He’s expected to be back in action in approximately three weeks.

For George, we’ve known his shoulder has been bothering him. He underwent successful elective surgery on his right shoulder. It repaired a partial thickness in his supraspinatus tendon tear. In another words, a tear in his rotator cuff. He will also repair a tear in his labrum in his left shoulder. He’s expected to be ready by the regular season.

These surgeries aren’t surprising. The extent of the injuries are though. Multiple tears for George and a torn ligament for Westbrook. We knew they were hurt but were unaware of how bad. It’s a testament for the personal sacrifice for both players to play through these injuries.

Westbrook continued to make NBA history this season, averaging a triple-double for the third consecutive year (22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 10.7 assists), making him the first player in NBA history to accomplish the feat. This season Westbrook led the league in assists for the second-straight season, making him the first player to ever lead the league in scoring twice (2015, 2017) and assists twice (2018, 2019).

George averaged career highs in points (28.0, 2nd in NBA), rebounds (8.2), assists (4.1) and steals (2.21, 1st in NBA). The only other player to average as many points, rebounds and steals in a season since steals became an official stat was Michael Jordan in 1988-89.

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Russell Westbrook becomes franchise scoring leader

Russell Westbrook found the bucket quickly in the first quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans but what was most important by the bucket was where it placed him on the franchise’s all-time scoring list.

Russell Westbrook passed Gary Payton for No. 1 all-time on the Thunder/Sonics scoring list.

Westbrook now has 18,208 points. Payton finished his Seattle career with 18,207 points. It took Payton 13 seasons to do it. Westbrook did it in 11 seasons.

In terms of Oklahoma City, Westbrook bypassed Kevin Durant earlier this season.

Westbrook is atop or near the top of many Thunder/Sonic leaderboards. He is fourth in total games played. Second in Minutes played, Field goals, Field goal attempts, Free throws, Defensive rebounds, Assists and assists per game.

Westbrook is only 12 free throw makes away from passing Kevin Durant for the most makes in franchise history.

Westbrook for his career is averaging 22.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game.

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Thunder waives Alex Abrines

In a bit of surprising news, the Oklahoma City Thunder have made the tough, but mutual decision to waive Alex Abrines prior to tonight’s game against Houston.

According to Royce Young of ESPN, both parties agreed to part ways as Abrines has dealt with a personal issue for some time.

Shams Charania of the Athletic was the first to report.

“Even though he’s not gonna be a part of our team anymore, we’re all still here,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s still part of the family, and we’ll do anything we can to try to help him going forward.”

Early on, Abrines missed time due to an injury, many different reports on what the said illness was. There has been zero clarification from either side, so everything is just speculation. Since then, Abrines has been taking personal time to attend to matters that have remained unknown. Abrines has missed 19 of the last 22 games.

Abrines, 25, returned to the line up against Orlando and Miami but did not appear against Boston. Abrines scored three points, while going 1-of-3 from deep in his 15 minutes of combined action. Abrines was inactive against Memphis on Thursday night.

Abrines appeared in 31 games for Oklahoma City, averaging 5.3 points 1.5 rebounds per game. He shot 32.3 percent from 3-point range, which is a career low.

Abrines appeared to be a missing piece when drafted in 2013 at the age of 19. He finished time in Spain but never really developed into a consistency guy Oklahoma City would have liked, despite the constant position to be that guy.

Abrines finished his Thunder career with average of 5.3 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, and a 36.8 3-point field goal percentage in 174 regular-season appearances.

The Thunder now have 11 active bodies for tonight’s game against Houston. Deonte Burton did make the trip to Houston. Oklahoma City and Houston tip-off at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.

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Paul George named All-Star Starter

Though it took some time, Paul George has been named a Western Conference All-Star starter. George finished third in the front court voting, booking him into the final starting position in the Western Conference.

In 46 games this season, George is leading the Thunder in scoring while averaging career-highs in points (27.0), rebounds (7.9), steals (2.33) and made threes (3.4). He currently ranks eighth in the NBA in scoring, second in steals and first in points off turnovers (5.0). He leads the league in loose balls recovered (2.3) while ranking second in deflections (3.8).

George’s All-Star selection is his seventh overall, second in the Western Conference. It’s the third time he’s been picked to be a starter, first in the West.

George has been the front runner for the Defensive Player of the Year and has been in the discussion for Most Valuable Player all season as well. George is one of five players in the NBA this season to hit a pair of game-winning field goals. On Dec. 5 in Brooklyn, George scored a team-record 25 fourth-quarter points, including the game-winning three in the final seconds to help lead Oklahoma City to their largest comeback victory in club history. Additionally, George completed a four-point play in the final moments of the Thunder’s 117-115 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers this past Saturday.

The 2019 NBA All-Star Game will follow last year’s format whereby LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will draft rosters from a pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference, making their picks regardless of conference affiliation.
Fan voting accounted for 50 percent of the overall vote while NBA players and a media panel each accounted for 25 percent of the vote. Among frontcourt players, George received the third-most fan votes (3,122,346) in the Western Conference.
TNT will announce the reserves, selected by NBA head coaches, on Thursday Jan. 31 during NBA Tip-Off.
The 68th NBA All-Star Game will take place at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. CT. TNT will televise the NBA All-Star Game for a 17th consecutive year.
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